Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Antonio Calipjo Go, "Sick Books Crusader"

Antonio Calipjo Go has belatedly admitted to the public that he neither has written a textbook nor has finished college.  Years ago, some reputable educators and journalists asked about his specific expertise, but he always gave an evasive answer.  After his overdue admission, he offers the public a sob story as to the reason for his inability to finish college nearly forty years ago: family poverty and the premature death of his father.  Should we shed tears for such a palusot?
In his expensive paid advertisements in which he tried to show the allegedly many errors in English, Filipino, Science and Social Studies textbooks used in public and private schools, Calipjo Go wanted us to believe that he had a monopoly of textbook expertise in several learning areas.  He angrily rejects the findings of several experts, such as those from the University of Sto. Tomas Department of Science, who have carefully examined and disputed the "errors" he found in textbooks he targeted.
Calipjo Go appears to be a publicity-hungry and self-anointed super-expert whose commentaries are combinations of shameless self-glorification and the ravings and rantings of a lonely aging man who has not outgrown his unhappy youth.  Imagine his arrogance in declaring in a piece he wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI): "I am the only person who actually tried to do something about the problem of error-riddled textbooks."
Calipjo Go likes to imagine himself persecuted by established academic institutions and recognized experts who disagree with his findings.  The PDI likes to lionize him especially after he put out several expensive advertisements.  Also, the PDI does not apply strict journalistic standards in verifying before publishing his allegations and stories.

In his 21 June 2010 commentary at the PDI, Calipjo Go attacked the book, "Biology," developed for secondary school students by the University of the Philippines National Institute of Science and Mathematics Education Development (UP NISMED).

Below is a reproduction of the response of UP NISMED to Go:
We read with interest (and not a small amount of frustration) Mr. Antonio Calipjo Go’s commentary on “Biology,” a textbook written by UP NISMED for high school students. He thinks the book is full of “idiocies and inanities, fallacies and errors.” He has a big axe to grind. Allow us to counter this unwarranted hatchet job.
Mr. Go thinks the title of the book is unimaginative. (We think it’s concise.) But he takes issue with the graphic spiny anteater, preferring the term echidna, which does not evoke any vivid image of the animal. He wants monotremes in place of the descriptive egg-laying mammals. He would rather we used marsupials, instead of the suggestive pouched mammals. The study of biology is at times made unnecessarily difficult by the use of words that sound foreign to learners. As UP NISMED appreciates this difficulty, it has put more value on the use of terms that help clarify concepts and are easily understood by the students. But we learned our lesson. Next time we will use terms that impede imagination.
Mr. Go thinks 358 pages are not enough to tackle a “very complex subject.” He prefers the much longer book by Prentice-Hall which he says has 923 pages. (We wonder whether it is possible to teach all the content written in such a book in a single academic year.) To be sure, Mr. Go knows that DepEd prescribes a limited number of pages per textbook. Yet, despite this limitation, all the learning competencies for Second Year Biology have been covered in the book.

Mr. Go thinks that the question, When did humans evolve?, is stupid. In fact, he cannot think of a question more stupid than this. To explain his point, he says that evolution is a very slow process of change occurring over a very long period of time. Apparently, Mr. Go wants to restrict the use of ‘When?’ to mean ‘At what time?’ He thinks it is wrong to use ‘When?’ to mean ‘Over what period?’ Using his rule, no one would be able to ask: When did the dinosaurs rule the Earth? When did the last Ice Age occur? When were the Himalayas formed?
Mr. Go thinks that the caption, Tools used during early times. Are these tools familiar to you? Where are they currently used?, is also stupid. However, he does not explain why. Perhaps he thinks that the writer was expecting the readers to be familiar with the tools or that the tools were being used at present. Just the opposite, the intention is to underscore the readers’ unfamiliarity with the tools and the fact that they are not used anymore. This is to emphasize the level of technology in olden times, that tools at the time were little more than stones with sharp edges and pointed tips.

Mr. Go asks if it is correct to teach, at the basic level, that Bone consists of living cells found in cavities and are surrounded by a hard, nonliving substance. Or, that Xylem cells are usually dead cells with thickened walls while phloem consists of living cells. He asks, “How can cells or substances be considered dead or nonliving when they are embedded deep within a living organism, and without which that organism cannot, in fact, live or survive?” Apparently, Mr. Go’s single criterion for considering a cell as living is the fact that it is embedded within a living organism. This is absolutely wrong. UP NISMED’s definitions for bone and xylem are not incorrect.

We request readers who come across commentaries such as this to be wary and critical. Do your own research and find out if what is being claimed as erroneous truly is erroneous, or merely the misinterpretation of someone who may not be competent in the field that he or she is criticizing. The greater “moral battle” is that which must be waged against those who masquerade as experts and peddle misinformation in the guise of professing love for country.
Truly, a little learning is a dangerous thing.